By Shamindra Ferdinando
Declaring that Sri Lanka was experiencing the worst ever post-independence economic crisis, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday said Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s forthcoming visit to New Delhi might give the country an opportunity to explore ways and means of overcoming the overwhelming challenges.
Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the ruling SLPP, emphasised that the Finance Minister’s visit was meant to seek not only loans but also wider cooperation on a range of other matters, including investment, trade and tourism.
Addressing the regular weekly SLPP briefing at its Battaramulla party office yesterday (22), Prof. Peiris said Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Gopal Baglay and Sri Lankan High Commissioner in New Delhi Milinda Moragoda had made arrangements for Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s visit.
Minister Rajapaksa is scheduled to meet Indian Premier Narendra Modi, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and other officials.
Both Prof. Peiris and SLPP General Secretary Attorney-at-Law Sagara Kariyawasam strongly argued against repeated calls led by the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) for seeking the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Prof. Peiris asserted that the IMF wasn’t the only solution but one of the alternatives whereas lawmaker Kariyawasam asked whether any country had benefited from such a course of action.
Referring to the unprecedented crisis triggered by Covid-19 eruption in early 2020, Prof. Peiris said there were external factors, and current challenges couldn’t be taken in isolation. Emphasising that Sri Lanka maintained friendly relations with all foreign governments, Prof. Peiris explained the special relations Sri Lanka was having with India.
Finance Minister Rajapaksa on 12 Nov. presented Budget 2022. He declared that the government was confident that the country would not default on its debts and would work to improve its foreign exchange reserves. “Sri Lanka has never defaulted in its history and that record will be maintained,” Minister Rajapaksa assured.
The Indian High Commission in Colombo has repeatedly stated that Sri Lanka would receive priority in line with India’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’ widely described as Premier Narendra Modi’s signature foreign policy initiative that sought to develop better relations with the country’s neighbours.
Prof. Peiris also briefed the media on the status of the drafting of the new Constitution undertaken by an expert committee, and the Parliamentary Select Committee handling electoral reforms. The SLPP Chairman said that the government was going ahead with the process in spite of other issues at hand and confident of bringing the project to a successful conclusion. Prof. Peiris said that a new Constitution was a long felt need. The public expected electoral reforms as all accepted the need for far reaching changes.
Quad member India is a major investor in Sri Lanka. Recently, India has reached agreement with Sri Lanka as regards the proposed West Container Terminal (WCT) against the backdrop Sri Lanka reneging previous tripartite agreement involving India and Japan to develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) amidst stiff opposition from port unions. The Quad security alliance comprises the US, Japan, Australia and India.